Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Book Club #21 - Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

One of the first books I checked out of the library was Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. I'd always been drawn in by the cover, and after hearing a few good reviews I added it to my mental TBR list. I was really excited to read Elizabeth is Missing, and nearly started it a few months ago but after some sad family news, I felt it might be too upsetting at the time and picked up other totally-unrelated-to-elderly-people books instead. Then, on a rainy August day, the library wizards emailed me to say I couldn't extend my load, and so I bumped it up to the top of my reading pile. I'm glad I gave Elizabeth is Missing a go, as I really enjoyed it! 

Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey
Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory—and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.

But no one will listen to Maud—not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth's mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.

This singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud's rapidly dissolving present. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.

As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more fifty years ago come flooding back, Maud discovers new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey's disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?
That's a great blurb, isn't it? Poor Maud, but I love a good unreliable narrator, I do. I think the reason this book has been so popular is because almost everyone has been affected by the onset of Alzheimer's, be it a loved one or elderly neighbour. Maud, like many with Alzheimer's, could recall very vivid moments of her past - especially of her missing older sister Sukey - but couldn't keep a linear thought going for longer than a sentence or two, even she had a granddaughter at one point. 

To fight this, Maud writes herself short notes to ensure she doesn't forget anything - but these can become mumbled up or if left without much context, often leave Maud feeling unsettled. In the kitchen, Maud leaves herself a note to not cook anything on the gas hob, but decided that surely boiling an egg couldn't be disallowed and makes one. Of course, in the process of this, she loses trail of her actions, leaves the hob on and goes off - only for her daughter Helen to discover it hours later. I found it all quite believable, having lived with my grandfather while he suffered from Alzheimer's, and Maud's confusing did leave me feeling rather sad in places. 

One thing I have to disagree with, is that Elizabeth is Missing is often cited to be a thriller, which I think is completely wrong. While I did feel gripped by the book, I didn't feel on edge or anything like that, that I would associate with thrillers - but that doesn't make it a bad book at all! If you're looking for gripping, cleverly written book, then I suggest Elizabeth is Missing! 

Chelsea xo
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